Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Man on Wire (2008)

This one got one good review after another but I wasn’t convinced. I misunderstood that it was mostly clips from the event; a movie sounded blasé. Once I started watching, I was captivated. The documentary’s success is based on the large personalities involved, the vast planning and the incredible feat that couldn’t  occur in our post-9/11 world.

Baby steps Parisian Philippe Petit grows up with a passion for tightrope/high wire walking. He starts young and takes his act to the streets, setting up small-scale tightropes, performing for Parisians. The movie does contain clips of Petit in his youth (late teens and early 20s practicing) and his co-conspirators during their planning sessions, but it’s exciting to see the footage and see how they aged.

Petit’s first coup was setting up and executing a high wire walk between the Gargoyle-protected towers of Notre Dame in Paris. After this success, he and his posse take to Sydney, Australia, where he walks a tightrope between the two north pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Neither wire walk would’ve been possible without Petit’s fiercely loyal friends, as you see in the doc. Remarkably, no cops or security got wind of it until Petit was mid-walk. Petit gets hungry for much more…he set his eyes on New York City’s World Trade Center towers. The year is 1974, but the dream begins years prior, even before construction of the towers has finished. The planning part is full of suspense and drama and just days before Petit starts his most famous walk, they almost cannot get everything done.

I could go on and on and on about Man on Wire, but I encourage you to see it. If you have reservations about this 2009 Oscar-winner for Best Documentary, see it anyway. You will be in awe…I promise.

Director: James Marsh

Country: US

Genre: Documentary

Run time: 90 minutes

Scale: 5

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